Truth Or Consequences

Remember when Joe Biden went on Meet the Press and blurted out support of same-sex marriage before the president had gotten around to it? Remember when Laura Petrie spilled the beans about Alan Brady’s toupee? Then there was this moron:

Man jailed after bragging "I think I got away with it" on Facebook

Oops. Sometimes, due to boastfulness or inattention or just plain guilelessness, the truth just slips out. Such as what Chad Gallagher, director of mobile at AOL Platforms, informed InformationWeek about the allure of native advertising.

“What we're doing is allowing publishers to create an ad unit that mimics the look of their actual site,” he said -- apparently before the sodium pentothal wore off.



“When something matches the look and feel and design and placement of the content people are consuming, I think they respond much better to it…. It feels like it's a part of the experience.”

The poor man apparently hadn’t been CC’d on the memo about how to rationalize the ongoing consumer fraud that is native advertising. He was, of course, supposed to say: “Our audience has always shown a great interest in relevant content, whatever its source. Our advertisers are subject-matter experts in their businesses, and we are happy to share that expertise with our discerning users.”

But no. Gallagher freely acknowledged the ethical -- and we hope soon illegal -- tactic of camouflaging advertising to look like editorial. Not sure what brought out this rare burst of candor from a publishing executive. Maybe InformationWeek waterboards. For once, however, someone called a thing by its name.

Although I have a new name, to replace “native.” Chromatophorescent, which is the quality in chameleons and certain squid to alter their skin pigmentation to blend in with their habitat. In the past two years, half of the publishing world has gone squid on us. It is deplorable. It is sleazy. And it is more shortsighted than Mr. Magoo. That’s because the revenue benefits of deceiving your audience will last only as long as it takes for that audience to sniff you out, whereupon the backlash of insult and resentment will be vicious.

As Fast Eddie Felson learned the hard way, people don’t like to be hustled.

Now I know I’m a bit of a broken record on this subject. And I know by saying “record,” and Eddie Felson and Mr. Magoo and Laura Petrie, I am dating myself. It gives you the opportunity to dismiss me as an old curmudgeon grumbling incessantly about the old values and the disrespectful younger generation and, dammit, you kids, Get off of my lawn!

But no dice, beeatch. Twerking is generational. Deception is not.

If you’re in the publishing business and you want to cultivate something that “feels like it's a part of the experience,” why not try this:

The truth.








5 comments about "Truth Or Consequences".
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  1. Len Stein from Visibility Public Relations, April 28, 2014 at 9:43 a.m.

    Steve- you go guy! the Wall needs to be rebuilt.

  2. Steven Comfort from Namo Media, April 28, 2014 at 2:46 p.m.

    If native ads are clearly label as "ads" or "sponsored content" or "sponsored posts" etc -- who is being hustled?

    Bob, instead of whining about the native advertising trend, why not expose a few of the bad players? (presumably the ones who are deceiving their readers)

  3. Tony Nino from PADV Pasadena Advertising, April 28, 2014 at 2:58 p.m.

    You got me. I laughed out loud (I would have lol'ed, but I'm old enough to remember Laura Petrie too).
    "Deception" in advertising is always a bad idea, especially when it's hilarious. Except of course in political advertising where, I believe, it's obligatory.
    Poor Chad Gallagher, and indeed, poor AOL. Sure they'll take the hit on this one, but... This is not a rare practice. In fact if you Google native advertising, you get a googolplex of native-looking Goggle ads on Google's native ad advice.
    (insert wry, smilie face)

  4. Ron Stitt from Fox Television Stations, April 28, 2014 at 3:48 p.m.

    Bob, if users are going to quickly & summarily reject native ads and punish publishers for doing it, why do you need the government to intervene/make it illegal?

  5. mark weiner from PRIME Research, April 29, 2014 at 7:30 p.m.

    As a public relations researcher, I am often in the position of helping client "prove the value of PR." While there's lots of science, there's also the simple widely accepted benefit that brand messaging as an organic element within the journalistic mix is more credible and often more compelling. "Native Advertising" is the biggest threat to the uniqueness of public relations as a marketing agent (let's not even mention the threat to publishing and an informed society). That PR people choose to perpetuate the threat by actively participating is baffling. When the time comes when no one trusts the media any longer, what will happen to media/public relations? It will disappear (alongside the media with whom we relate).

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